RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — When Jin Young Ko’s birdie putt missed on the 9th hole at Mission Hills Thursday morning, it represented the end of one of the most ridiculous streaks in golf history.
Ko, the No. 1-ranked player in the world, fired a two-over 74 at the opening round of the Chevron Championship. The round snapped a streak of 34-consecutive rounds under par for the 26-year-old.
Ko was as shocked as anyone to see the streak come to an end.
“I don’t know what happened,” Ko said in a daze after the round.
No one on Earth — man or woman — has played as well as Ko over the last nine months.
Since the streak began last July, Ko has won five times. Her worst finish is a T6, and her scoring average is a blistering 67.18. Pretty impressive stuff.
There were also mini-streaks within the streak. Two separate times, Ko ripped off gaudy runs of consecutive rounds in the 60s. Last fall, she tied the all-time mark with 14 rounds in a row in the 60s. She fired a 71 that snapped the streak, and then started another one — this time stretching to 16 rounds in a row to own the record outright.
There’s in the zone, and then there’s whatever the hell Ko has been in.
But as we know all too well, golf is a fickle game — and Thursday wasn’t Ko’s day.
Her first nine (the back side) was largely unremarkable. Nine holes and nine pars. Not bad, but she’d need better on the second nine for the streak to continue.
Her bogey on No. 1 served as a harbinger of what was to come. Ko hit her drive in the fairway, but with just inside 130 yards left to a back-right pin, she mishit her approach with a pitching wedge and watched as it dropped 50 feet shy of the pin.
She looked at the club in disbelief. Such is the case when you (seemingly) haven’t mishit a shot in the calendar year.
Ko’s lag putt settled some three feet short of the hole. Her putt for par caught the left edge and spun out of the cup. Suddenly, the unflappable Korean was over par. *gasp*
The remainder of the round was much of the same. Ko’s trademark ball striking gave her some opportunities, but she just couldn’t convert. She made pars the rest of the way, save for a three-putt bogey at the 8th, and signed for a two-over round.
So, what went wrong? For the most part, Ko just couldn’t get the speed right on the greens. After lightning-fast speeds during the practice rounds, Thursday’s opening round saw the greens considerably slower — at least in Ko’s eyes.
“I was hitting lots of great shots but my putting wasn’t good on the greens,” she said. “Greens are little slow[er] than last couple days.”
Beyond the issues on the greens, sometimes you just don’t have it. Ko showed as much today.
If the last nine months are any indication though, we can expect another jaw-dropping streak to begin tomorrow.